By Matthew Rudy
With its roughless, sandy framing, sea of pine straw and shaved green complexes, Pinehurst No. 2 has a radically different look than any other recent U.S. Open venue. That means you'll see tour players hitting a variety of less-common shots during championship. As the Pinehurst Golf Academy's director of instruction, top-50 teacher Eric Alpenfels has lots of experience both on No. 2 and hitting the shots Donald Ross' historical showpiece requires. Below, he'll talk about five of them -- playing from waste areas, putting from the fairway, the low-running chip, clearing high bunker lips and hitting from pine straw -- and show you how to pull them off yourself.
Escaping waste areasBy far the most pre-tournament chatter has been about the striking sand-and-scrub transition areas lining the fairways. Miss a fairway and you won't find yourself in traditional six-inch U.S. Open rough, but a patchwork of sand and wispy native grass. You might have a decent lie, or you might be punching out. On a playable shot from the sandy surface, catching the ball first is the key.
Putting from fairwayRoss' designs are known for their diabolical green complexes, and No. 2 is no different. The greens themselves are turtle-backed and designed to repel shots, and undulations on the green can kick high pitch shots off target. But there is room to roll the ball onto most greens with the putter. Catching the ball on a descending blow is an important part of making solid contact.
Bump and runIf a short-game shot does have to leave the ground, you'll see a lot more European-style low chips into the face of the greenside slopes. The goal there is to pick a less-lofted club like a 6- or 7-iron and use the hill to deflect the speed. The ball will bounce up, then trickle toward the target.
Clearing high-lip bunkersAnother characteristic common to both British Open venues and this week's No. 2 is deep, greenside bunkers. To clear the threatening lip, you have resist the temptation to lay the face open and instead focus on solid contact with the sand and a full finish.
Playing from pine strawGetting into the tree lines at No. 2 means playing from pine straw and finding a path through the obstacles. Players will be using straighter-faced long irons to have a better chance to curve low shots out of trouble and follow the contour of the hole.